A VLocity passenger train was travelling at 93km/h when it struck and destroyed heritage-listed swing level crossing gates at Ballarat, Victoria on 30 May 2020, a preliminary report confirms.
The V/Line VLocity passenger train, with a train driver, conductor and two passengers on-board, was operating an evening service from Melbourne’s Southern Cross Station to Wendouree in Ballarat’s west when it was unable to come to a stop at Ballarat Station, the preliminary report from the on-going transport safety investigation details.
“Departing Ballan, the driver began to experience wheel slip events during powering and as the journey progressed, experienced instances of wheel slide during braking,” said Chris McKeown, Victoria’s Chief Investigator, Transport Safety (CITS).
These wheel slip events triggered the train’s Wheel Slip/Slide Protection (WSP) system, which activates when a train’s powered axles are rotating faster than its non-powered axles.
If a wheel slide occurs during braking, brake cyclinder pressure is reduced to regain the right braking effort for the available wheel adhesion and sand is applied to the rail to improve wheel traction.
“On the approach to Ballarat, the driver reported having commenced braking slightly earlier than would normally be the case due to the wet and windy weather conditions,” Mr McKeown said.
The train’s event recorder detected braking being initiated with the train 4.9 km from Ballarat Station and the train travelling at approximately 160 km/h, followed by indications of wheel-slide and a series of brake applications and activation of the train’s sanding valve.
“An emergency brake application was applied 235 metres before the train’s intended stop at Ballarat Station,” Mr McKeown said.
“The train travelled through Ballarat Station at 100 km/h and passed a Departure signal at Stop as it headed towards the Lydiard Street North crossing.”
One second before the train passed through the crossing, the crossing’s road traffic lights changed from green to flashing amber. However, the gates were still across the track rather than protecting the crossing from road traffic when struck by the train.
CCTV footage showed that approximately 49 seconds before, a group of three pedestrians passed over the crossing.
The train subsequently passed through the Doveton Street level crossing and came to a stop approximately 600 metres west of its intended stopping point. A passenger who had been standing near an exit door as the train approached Ballarat Station sustained head, back, and leg injuries, and was taken off the train by emergency services and admitted to hospital.
“The on-going investigation will examine a range of factors including operation and maintenance of VLocity sanders, track condition, dynamic performance of the braking system, train operation and performance,” Mr McKeown noted.
Subsequent to the accident, testing identified performance issues with the VLocity 3VL70 train’s sanding system and manufacturer Bombardier has subsequently undertaken fleet-wide testing of VLocity sanders and performed remedial action where required.
Mr McKeown noted that the investigation’s preliminary report does not contain findings, identify contributing factors or outline safety issues, which will be detailed in the final report.
The Chief Investigator, Transport Safety (CITS) conducts rail investigations in Victoria on behalf of the ATSB under the Transport Safety Investigation Act 2003.
Read the preliminary report RO-2020-007: Collision of passenger train with level crossing gates at Ballarat, Victoria, on 30 May 2020Last update 06 October 2020